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Capsule descriptions of Pulitzer winners

Details on the winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes:

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: The Associated Press.

In a series of stories, AP reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley showed how the New York Police Department, with help from a CIA official, created a surveillance program to monitor law-abiding Muslims in settings that ranged from cafes to college campuses. Individuals and groups were monitored even when there was no evidence they were linked to terrorism or crime.

"We kept reporting things that no one in the city of New York knew about," said AP's executive editor, Kathleen Carroll. "That's what I'm most proud of."

The series, which began in August, prompted protests, a demand from 34 members of Congress for a federal investigation and an internal inquiry by the CIA's inspector general.

"We came under relentless attack," Goldman told colleagues. "Some people thought they could intimidate us and the AP — and they were wrong."

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PUBLIC SERVICE: The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A five-reporter team was honored for a series called "Assault on Learning" that revealed widespread and unreported violence in the city schools. The series found that there were 30,000 serious incidents in the previous five years.

Reporters John Sullivan, Susan Snyder, Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell and Jeff Gammage spent a year conducting more than 300 interviews with teachers, administrators, students, families and police and court officials.

The series began after racial violence broke out among students at South Philadelphia High School in December 2009. The findings were corroborated by a schools panel and resulted in an overhaul of incident reporting in the district.

"For us, it just kept coming back to the kids, the victims," Graham said.

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BREAKING NEWS REPORTING: The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News.

The newspaper staff won for its coverage of a deadly tornado that barreled through the city shortly after reporters had received training in how to use social media for news coverage.

"Within seconds of when the tornado hit, our staff was out tweeting," City Editor Katherine Lee said. "At first, it was just 'bodies on streets, buildings gone, an intersection gone.'"

The newspaper also used traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people and produce in-depth accounts, despite a power disruption in the newsroom.

"I think we won because the tornado hit where we live, and we all felt a responsibility to do this well, to tell our story well — about how people came together to help total strangers," Lee said.

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INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: The Seattle Times.

Reporters Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong delved into the deadly consequences of Washington state's embrace of methadone as a top option for treating chronic-pain patients with state-subsidized health care. Their series found that more than 2,100 people had died of accidental methadone overdoses since 2003, while the state had brushed off warnings about the drug's risks and declared it was safe.

"Not only is this wrong, but this is incredibly tragic," Berens said.

In response to the series, the state declared that methadone was no longer a preferred painkiller. Instead, doctors and patients were told it should be a last resort.

Winning the Pulitzer is "incredibly humbling," Berens said. "And I'm honored at the same time. You have these two emotions hitting you."

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LOCAL REPORTING: The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Penn.

The newspaper — and especially reporter Sara Ganim — were honored for breaking the Penn State sexual abuse scandal that ultimately brought down football coach Joe Paterno, one of the sport's most revered figures.

During the investigation, Ganim said, the staff stayed "focused on following the facts, and not thinking about what the consequences might be, which I think is actually a good thing because we weren't distracted and we were able to see the whole picture."

Their efforts led to a nationwide discussion about big-time sports operations on college campuses.

Ganim called the award a win for everyone in every newsroom "just like ours all across the country."

"The most rewarding thing through this whole process has been people telling me that this story and our coverage has changed their minds about local reporting," she said.

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NATIONAL REPORTING: The Huffington Post

The news site won its first Pulitzer for military correspondent David Wood's series on the experiences of catastrophically wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wood, who has covered war and military issues since the 1970s, looked at the soldiers' physical and emotional struggles, as well as how their families, communities, comrades and doctors responded.

Wood's stories, which began running in October, introduced readers to many people, including a soldier who lost both of his legs and an arm to an IED blast but has gone onto a new marriage and a mother who has spent the last several years feeding, clothing and bathing her wounded son.

"From the beginning, one of the core pillars of The Huffington Post's editorial philosophy has been to use narrative and storytelling to put flesh and blood on data and statistics, and to help bear witness to the struggles millions of Americans face," said Mario Ruiz of HPMG Media Relations in a statement.

"We thank the Pulitzer Committee for recognizing Beyond the Battlefield as a tribute worthy of the men and women whose lives it chronicles — and also for acknowledging that singular, vibrant reporting can thrive on the Web, and indeed, be enhanced by it."

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FEATURE WRITING: The Stranger, Seattle.

Reporter Eli Sanders said it was "cool that a scrappy little alt-weekly in Seattle can produce something that resonates on this level."

Sanders' haunting story in The Stranger described a 38-year-old woman who survived a brutal attack that took the life of her partner. Sanders used the woman's searing courtroom testimony, which helped send the attacker to prison, and the details of the crime to construct a moving narrative.

Isaiah Kalebu was found guilty last year of aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary.

"I was stunned at first," Sanders said upon learning he had won. "It's a great, great privilege to work at a paper that will allow someone to hang on to a crime story for so long and to disappear as long as I did at a trial," Sanders said. "The fact that I was able to do this piece at all was a credit to how much time the Stranger was willing to give."

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EDITORIAL CARTOONING: Politico.

Matt Wuerker said he was surprised to win "because my work is a little out of the ordinary in the cartoon world; I'm a 19th-century style cartoonist — I draw with pen, ink and watercolor on paper, old-fashioned paper, while others tend to use computer stuff and other digital media."

However, he added, chuckling, "my cartoons look good when they appear on Facebook."

The judges cited Wuerker's consistently fresh, funny cartoons that lampooned the partisan conflict engulfing Washington.

"I was floored, I was absolutely floored," he said. "It's such an over-the-horizon cartoonist fantasy."

It's the first Pulitzer for Politico, the 5-year-old newspaper and website about Washington politics that was launched by two former Washington Post reporters.

Editor-in-chief John Harris says Wuerker's cartoons are in Politico's spirit because "he takes raw delight in politics." Politico's first Pulitzer "means a lot to the whole publication."

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FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY: Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post.

Walker chronicled Colorado resident Scott Ostrom's struggles with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after four years as a Marine Corps reconnaissance man and two deployments to Iraq. Ostrom was honorably discharged in 2007.

"Scott Ostrom is the one who deserves the credit on this one," Walker said. "He shared an amazing story with us, and I was honored to be part of it."

"This is a great day for The Post," Post Editor Gregory L. Moore said Monday.

Walker also won the 2010 Pulitzer for feature photography for "Ian Fisher: American Soldier." Over 27 months, Walker photographed Fisher as he went from high school graduate to Army recruit to soldier. He chronicled Fisher's deployment to Iraq and his return home from combat.

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DRAMA: Quiara Alegria Hudes' play "Water by the Spoonful."

In the drama, a soldier returns from war to Philadelphia and struggles to put aside the images that haunt him while his mother, a recovering addict, battles her own demons. It has characters from all around the world because much of it is set in an Internet chat room.

"As I was writing this play, I felt more at home than ever," she said. "I am myself of a mixed background. I'm half Puerto Rican and half Jewish and so, in some ways, living in many worlds at once is where I feel most at home."

Hudes, 34, previously wrote the book for the Broadway show "In the Heights," which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008. Her play "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue" was a Pulitzer finalist in 2007.

She is currently teaching a playwriting workshop at Wesleyan University and found out she's won the Pulitzer while checking her phone during a class break. Hudes says she yelped and some of her students asked her what was wrong.

"I think I looked like the blood had drained from my face," she said. "They said, 'Is everything OK?' I said, 'Yes,' and they all applauded."

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GENERAL NONFICTION: "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern" by Stephen Greenblatt.

Greenblatt, a professor of humanities at Harvard University who also wrote the 2004 best-selling biography of Shakespeare "Will in the World," won for a book that focuses on events 600 years ago.

It tells the story of Poggio Bracciolini, the former apostolic secretary to several popes, who became perhaps the greatest book hunter of the Renaissance. His most significant find, located in a German monastery, was a copy of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things," which had been lost to history for more than a thousand years.

"This poem changed my life. But it also turned out to change all of our lives even though there's no reason you or anyone else should have heard of it," said Greenblatt, a Renaissance specialist who last fall won the National Book Award.

Greenblatt's other books include "Shakespeare's Freedom" (2010); "Cultural Mobility" (2010); "Hamlet in Purgatory" (2001); and "Learning to Curse" (1990). He also has co-edited "The Norton Anthology of English Literature."

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Associated Press writers JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia, Verena Dobnik in New York, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., Chris Grygiel in Seattle and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this report.

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